One teammate won the district title, another won the region title. Chantilly junior Joe Monte had proven himself to be one of the Washington area's top golfers, but he was beginning to wonder when he would win a major high school tournament.
As Monte walked to the green of the final hole in the Virginia AAA championship, however, any concern was gone, replaced by a wide grin he was unable to contain. Entering yesterday with a one-shot lead, Monte played solidly to finish the two-day tournament 2 under par and win by two strokes at the par-72 Piedmont Club in Haymarket.
"Did you see me trying to hold back my smile the whole time?" Monte said. "How do you have a serious demeanor when you're about to win? It's hard to hold back your emotions."
Monte shot a 3-under 69 in Tuesday's first round, but began yesterday only one shot ahead of three players, including teammate Jake An, who won the Concorde District tournament. When An teed off on his first hole this morning, he sailed a booming drive down the fairway, turned to Monte and joked, "Better watch out, I'm coming after you."
The teammates both started on the back nine, with An playing one group in front of Monte. And they kept tabs on each other throughout the round. "That was very nerve-racking," Monte said. "Especially with Jake, he's an intimidating player."
Monte's lead was only one stroke until he made a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 6. And when An's drive bounced out of bounds on No. 8, Monte was in control.
Still, Monte wanted more. When he narrowly missed a birdie putt on No. 8, he dropped his putter and muttered to himself. Then on No. 9, his approach missed the green and he wound up two-putting for bogey to finish with a 73 for the day and, most importantly, the title.
After a strong summer, Monte had not been at his best in recent weeks, tying for fourth in the district tournament and finishing third as Chantilly sophomore Gabe Lainez won the Northern Region title. At a junior tournament in North Carolina this month, however, Monte discovered some kinks in his swing and worked to eliminate them. Yesterday, it was his teammates' turn to cheer for him. An ended up winning a playoff to finish third.
Monte "was competitive in all of the tournaments we played," Westfield Coach Tim Vigotsky said. "True champions are the ones that rise at times like this. This is the biggest tournament we play all year."
Daniel Bacon of Deep Run finished second with a two-day score of even par, helping the Glen Allen school win its third consecutive team title, setting a state record with a two-day total of 587, 11 over par. Seniors Zack Spees and Michael Spear finished 10th and 11th, respectively, to lead Westfield to second place in the team competition with a score of 606.
West Springfield's Scott Juhl finished tied for sixth after being involved in a five-way playoff for fifth place.